Bernd Franke was born in 1959 in Weissenfels/Saale.
The composer Bernd Franke grew up in an open, tolerant, and, with regard to music, an undogmatic family home. There, as a child, he came into contact with classical music, jazz and pop music, which were regarded as completely equal. Such a musical understanding still characterizes him to this day, which explains his passion for improvisation. Characteristic of his œuvre since the 1980s is the crossing of borders, both musically and by incorporating socially relevant themes.
Between 1975 and 1981 he studied composition with Siegfried Thiele and conducting with Wolf-Dieter Hauschild at the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Musikhochschule Leipzig. In 1980 he founded the ensemble ‘Junge Musik’ Leipzig and continued to lead the group until 1983. Since 1981 he has taught at the Institute of Musicology at Leipzig University and the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Musikhochschule Leipzig.
Since 2003 he has been Professor for composition, music of the 20th and 21st century, music theory and analysis at the University of Leipzig.
He was also the recipient of the Hanns Eisler Prize and Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1981.
From 1981 to 1985 he was Meisterschüler at the Academy of Arts in East BerlinHe began regular correspondence with Stockhausen, Nono, Ligeti and Henze in the mid- 80s, visiting Lutoslawski in Warsaw too. In 1987 he was awarded the Composition prize at the 9th Boswil International Composition Seminar (Künstlerhaus Boswil Foundation, Switzerland) and the Kucyna International Composition Prize, Boston (USA). His association with the Künstlerhaus Boswil Foundation continued in the form of a number of long-term work residencies.
In 1988 he was involved in composer workshops at the Gaudeamus Foundation Amsterdam working with Ton de Leeuw and Chu Wen Chung among others, and in the same year he began work on his cycle half-way house – SOLO XFACH (for Joseph Beuys) with Solo 3fach. The piece was premiered that year by the Kölner Horntrio at the Alte Oper, Frankfurt.
He received the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship from the Tangelwood Music Center, USA in 1989 and studied with Bernstein, Lukas Foss, Louis Krasner and Oliver Knussen, amongst others.
His first meeting with Hans Werner Henze, who was to become his mentor in the early 90s, came at the world premiere of the West-Eastern German Songbook at the Alte Oper Frankfurt. Franke’s Wann wird Friede sein, based on a text by Karl Vollmoeller, was included in the project. He continued to exchange letters with Henze and was to meet him regularly in Berlin, Munich, London and San Marino.
In 1993 he received study grants and delivered a series of lectures in the USA, including in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Carrollton and Minneapolis. In 1994 Henze invited Franke to sit on the jury at the Munich Biennale for New Music Theater. Between 1996 and 1998 he was Artistic Director of the ‘New Music at the Beck Galerie’ (Leipzig/Düsseldorf) series and in 1998 founded Ensemble SOLO XFACH with the aim of promoting authentic performances of the cycle of the same name. Since 1998 he has undertaken a number of long-term study trips and working stays in Southeast Asia and India.
The first productions of SOLO XFACH came in 2000: playback tapes were produced in Berlin Technical University’s electronic studio, parts of the SOLO XFACH cycle were produced at Hessian Radio Frankfurt with Ensemble SOLO XFACH and a full-length concert featuring SOLO XFACH (for Joseph Beuys) and a video installation by Peter Kees was staged in the German Pavillion at the Hanover EXPO.
In 2001 Franke began work on his CUT cycle; CUT I-III was given its world premiere by Ensemble Modern. 2002 marked the beginning of Franke’s association with C.F. Peters and since then his works have been exclusively published by the company. Franke became a member of the ‘Sächsische Akademie der Künste’, Dresden, in the same year.
Since the beginning of the nineties he has been in close cooperation (lectures and concert tours) with the Goethe Institute (including Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New York, Toronto, Winnipeg, Prague, Helsinki, Stockholm, Kolkata, Bangalore, Tokyo, Taipei, Lithuania, Estonia).
Since 2017 Franke has been a Member of the Austrian Society for New Music.
His international orientation and his experiences with different cultures are also reflected in the fact that some of his works were premiered in Asia, including in Tokyo (2013), India / Kolkata (2013) and Taiwan (2014). He was Composer in Residence in Finland / Kaustinen (2003), in Sweden (2004), and in Copenhagen / Ars Nova / Paul Hillier (2008 and 2009), at the Land of the Disobedient Festival in Lithuania (2009), in Kolkata, India (2011), in Taiwan (National Chinese Orchestra Taipei) (2013). In the area of vocal -instrumental works, his interest in intercultural cooperation is also expressed in intensive direct collaboration with lyricists such as David Bengree-Jones (UK), SAID (Iran/Germany), Christian Lehnert (Germany) and Adel Karasholi (Syria/ Germany).
Collaboration and Commissions received include those by and with Riccardo Chailly, Kurt Masur, Paul Hillier, Lukas Foss, Michael Sanderling, Joel Sachs, Gabriel Feltz, Andrey Boreyko, Fabian Panisello, Howard Arman, Stefan Blunier, Yukiko Sugawara-Lachenmann, Ueli Wiget, HR, Jürgen Ruck, Wu Wei, and renowned orchestras such as the Gewandhausorchester, the MDR Orchestra, BSO Berlin, Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Kings Singers, BR/Musica Viva, MDR, NDR, Calmus Ensemble, Amarcord and the National Chinese Orchestra, as well as festivals such as the Darmstaedter Ferienkurse.
Many of Franke’s works are produced as cycles, among others SOLO XFACH (for Joseph Beuys, since 1988), CUT I-XII (since 2001), in between (since 2001),and VEIL (since 2013). In his work, he is particularly interested in the processes of the deconstruction of orchestral and ensemble structures, and the further development of organic aleatoric as well as the cultures, philosophies and religions of Asia.